I choose “none of the above”

Jeremy Stroming

Why we need to change our standardized testing system

Naomi and Jafar are planning to build a vegetable garden. They are trying to decide what they can do to increase the amount of vegetables they can grow. Write a paragraph including two pieces of evidence that explains what steps could help them grow more vegetables.

Do you remember this type of question from the middle school WASL? Completely irrelevant, yet teachers would spend weeks ahead of the April testing time preparing students specifically on how to answer the types of questions on this test. The blatant teaching-to-the-test is not helpful for anyone: the students must sacrifice hours toward learning how to pass the tests, and the teachers are pressured into preparing their students because of the test based evaluation that many districts employ.

Endless standardized testing has followed us throughout our school careers. First it was the WASL and the yearly Stanford Test. Then the WASL was replaced by the MSPE and HSPE. Now in high school, the infamous EOC has been introduced to put another impediment between you and your diploma. Liberty Principal Josh Almy estimated that at Beaver Lake Middle School, about 26 days a year were devoted to standardized testing. It’s time to seriously examine our reliance on standardized testing and find better solutions for measuring student and educator performance.

The teachers at Garfield High School in Seattle have finally taken a stance against ridiculous testing requirements. The Seattle School District requires its students to take the MAP (Measure of Academic Progress) two to three times each year, every year from first grade through freshman year.  Computer labs at Garfield are booked for weeks on end for students to make up the test, which disrupts classroom projects and learning of students in other grade levels.

Teachers and principals whose students demonstrate the most growth can receive raises. The problem is that the margin for error on the MAP test is greater than the expected gain of student scores, so it’s not a guaranteed indicator of teacher performance. There needs to be some way of evaluating a school classroom, but testing is not the way to do it. There are far too many factors that go into a student’s test score to make it an accurate gauge of achievement.

On February 5, the principals at Garfield had to administer the tests because the teachers refused. However, only 97 of the 400 ninth graders expected to take the test actually did; the rest were excused by their parents. Despite pressure from administrators, the teachers’ devotion is unquestionable; they are willing to undergo a 10 day suspension without pay which—on a teacher’s salary—can amount to a significant sum.

Back at Liberty, we too have been plagued with standardized testing that disrupts classroom schedules. While it’s not as intense at the high school level, school is still interrupted for two weeks of the year by the HSPE and EOCs.

Ever since the No Child Left Behind policy, it seems as though school is more about testing than learning. In the words of principal Almy’s, this is like weighing a pig more often than you feed it: it’s counterproductive. We need to find a solution on the national, state, and district level because right now, the testing system is a mess. A student’s parents and home life is more influential in their education than almost any teacher could ever be.

Since the commencement of the boycott, the National Education Association, the American Federation of Teachers, the Garfield PTSA, about 80 other district teachers, and the Seattle Student Senate have all voiced their support. Liberty students and staff should as well.

Garfield history teacher Jesse Hagopian suggests that “portfolios, which collect student work and demonstrate yearlong student growth, would be a good replacement for the MAP”. This allows for students to demonstrate their creativity, individuality, and talent in areas other than multiple choice assessments.

After all, while tests are standardized, students are not.